Coaching Moments

"Coaching Moments" takes a
thoughtful, and sometimes lighthearted, look at how coaching
can be interwoven into our daily lives. 

loving letters
by Janice Hunter

lay aside letters never to read them again,
and at last we destroy them out of discretion,
and so disappears the most beautiful, the
most immediate breath of life, irrecoverable
for ourselves and for others.” ~ Goethe

I’d like to start this month’s
article by begging you, pleading with you
not to take a moment of your life for granted
today, no matter how creatively in the flow
you are or how jam packed, bogged down or
productive your day is. Don’t let
one single breath slip by unappreciated,
not a smile, or a phonecall, or a scrap
of paper from a friend, or a coffee date
that you’re considering cancelling
because of work. If you’ve drifted
away from a loved one because of busy-ness
and stress, head for home and find a safe
harbour before it’s too late. Say
thank you, say sorry, say something.

It all started in the attic. I went up
to find a map for my son’s homework
and while I was rooting around among teetering
piles of cardboard boxes, I found an old
plastic bag with Portuguese writing on it
and I knew it must contain something from
the time my husband and I spent teaching
there twenty years ago. I carried the dusty,
musty smelling thing down to my bedroom,
spilled the contents onto the bed then gasped
with my hand to my face as I saw piles of
envelopes covered in my mother’s handwriting.

Guilt came first; here were all the letters
she’d written to me in my years abroad.
So many letters. Most of the time, beween
brief phonecalls, all I sent my folks were
scrawled postcards and clichéd tourist
gifts. She ended every letter with “We
love you” and every letter was an
expression of unconditonal love. If she
was saddened by the self-obsessed way I
neglected my family or anxious about me
living alone in foreign countries, she never
showed it.

Tears streaming down my face, I realised,
for the first time, that my mother had a
gift for fresh, immediate writing. I savoured,
in a way I’m sure I didn’t back
then, the details of her everyday life as
she described, with a canny eye and gentle
humour, the simple goings-on in our Scottish
mining village.

I felt her presence wrap itself around
me as I laid them to the side, knowing I
would keep and treasure them but I had to
read the others now. A window to my past,
to another world, to another self had been
opened. Like an archaeologist, a time traveller,
I kept reading.

I found cards and letters of love and support
from friends I’d written to before
I went into surgery to have a tumour removed.
I suddenly remembered sitting by the hospital
bed, writing ‘thank you’ and
‘I love you’ letters to everyone
in my address book – just in case. How I
wish I could turn back the clock now and
thank them again, with an older, wiser understanding
of how powerful and authentic their messages
were. There is deep, raw strength in the
honesty that brings us closer together in
situations where we feel the wings of death
brush past our shoulders.

A pile of flimsy blue air mail envelopes
with their red and white striped edging,
letters from my best friend in his beautiful
Greek script, teasing me and loving me,
unaware that in a few short years his life
would be tragically cut short by cancer.

funny postcard in what we called Portuguenglish
from a linguistically brilliant student
of mine who’d become a good friend;
he threw away his lonely young life with
a heroin needle a few years later.

A bundle of fat envelopes addressed in
the small, shy handwriting of a Scottish
friend I’d been at university with,
envelopes bursting with beautiful, expressive,
heartfelt letters to cheer me up and keep
me company during many a painful, lonely
time abroad before I met my husband. He
wrote to me about music, art, books, life
and love and it didn’t dawn on me
until today – so selfish and self-centred
was I then – that he was in love with
me. My heart stumbled and I wiped my wet
face on the back of my hand as I realised
that he saw then the very best of me, a
glimpse of my real self, my soul, the part
of me that has been rediscovered and nurtured
by my marriage, my children and my coaching
journey. He let me go eventually, “getting
rid of dead wood” he called it, and
the pain I felt then was excruciating because
I didn’t realise why he was doing
it. I do now, but I can’t apologise,
can’t thank him, can’t start
again and show him pictures of my kids.
And I wouldn’t wish this feeling on

As I sat shredding letters for reycling,
letting go of all but a precious few and
whispering silent apologies and gratitude
for the memories that made me the person
I am today, I decided I’m going to
write some real letters and notes to the
folk I love, something they can hold and
choose to keep in a ribbon-tied bundle if
they want to; real letters in unique handwriting
on scented notepaper or carefully chosen
postcards like we sent back then, when people
left a part of themselves on paper and thank
God they did.

Hunter is a writer, teacher and IAC certified coach who
currently specialises in homelife coaching – helping people
create authentic, spirit filled lives and homes they love –
and in supporting coaches on their certification journeys.
She lives in Scotland with her husband and two children.


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